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The Greatest

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 21, 2022 12:01 am

The Greatest

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 21, 2022 12:01 am

It's noble to desire for your life to have significance. But to pursue greatness at the expense of others--that's another matter. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke to consider what it really takes to be the greatest in the kingdom of God.

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To want to be great in faith, to want to be great in service is a noble thing, but to want to be the greatest in the kingdom of God at the expense of other people is perversity. The apostles saw Jesus perform amazing miracles. They were eyewitnesses to the feeding of the five thousand, to the raising of the dead, to the healing of the sick. And in moments of reflection, they began to wonder what kind of amazing things they would be able to do. Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul takes us to Luke chapter 9 to show us that arguing about being the greatest isn't a great idea.

What a difference a day makes. As we saw in the last portion of chapter 9, the event that took place the day before these things that we've just read was the transfiguration of Christ on the mountain, where He was transformed before the eyes of Peter, James, and John, one of the most glorious moments in the history of the world. The moment that we saw was something that John and Peter and James would never forget. And yet a day later, Jesus meets with the rest of the disciples who had remained at the base of the mountain while He and Peter and James and John had withdrawn for prayer.

And He walks, as it were now, into a maelstrom of controversy and trouble. Now if you recall, when we started our study of chapter 9, what was it? A hundred years ago, it seems, that in the very first part of chapter 9, we read these words in verse 1. Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. That was the moment, we said, where the disciples had become apostles, because Jesus transferred to them authority and power. The authority and power to preach, to heal, and to cast out demons. And now when Jesus comes down from the Mount of Transfiguration, He finds nine of these men who had received that commission, who had been granted that power, who had been given that authority by Christ Himself, cowering in weakness in the midst of their abject failure to exercise that power and authority that Jesus had given to them.

Just one minute. The New Testament tells us, dear ones, that every person who is in Christ has been visited by the Spirit of God and empowered for ministry. Paul tells us that we don't all have the same gift. Our gifts differ from one another, but we all are gifted to participate in the ministry of the kingdom of God. And as the apostle says, let him who has the gift of teaching, let him teach. Let him who has the gift of preaching, let him preach. The one who has the gift of administration, let him administer.

One who has the gift of singing, let him sing. And the idea is every believer has been empowered to serve in some capacity. And I know that many of us don't even know what gifts we possess.

And I also know that many of us who do know what gifts we possess do not regularly exercise those gifts. And so if there's any consolation for you, keep in mind that that's nothing new as the disciples themselves have been thus gifted and failed to exercise their gifts in a meaningful way. And so Luke tells us that the day after the transfiguration, when they came down from the mountain, a great multitude met him. But suddenly an individual in the midst of this crowd rushes out, is singled out from their mob, and cries out saying, Teacher, I implore you, I beg you, look on my son. I remember reading the writings of the French existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the most famous atheists of the 20th century. And when he gave his critique of the existence of God, said that if God exists at all, and if He is omniscient, that means that we would all live our lives beneath His gaze. And to be subject to the gaze of God is to be reduced to an object like a monkey in the zoo, and we would lose our very humanity. And Sartre couldn't stand the thought of God's being a cosmic voyeur who was looking through the keyhole of heaven down at us, and like the federal government of the United States monitoring our every move.

He thought that was the ultimate loss of freedom and dignity. And so there is within the heart of the atheist a profound desire not that God would look at him, but that God would overlook him, that God would ignore him. This is our most base reference to the existence of God as we saw in the Garden of Eden, the first impulse of Adam and Eve after their initial transgression of the law of God is what? They ran and they hid and they didn't want God to see them. Don't look at me because I'm ashamed.

And yet the tragedy is that Sartre and at that point in the experience of Adam and Eve they had not yet experienced the benevolent gaze of God, the healing gaze of God, the compassionate look of God. Well, David when he had known forgiveness said to God, O Lord, search me and know me. I know I can't hide from you. I can hide from men, but there's nowhere that I can flee from your Spirit if I ascend into heaven. You're there if I make my bed in Sheol. Thou art there. Then before a word is formed on my lips, you know it altogether. And so David said please look at me.

And that's what this man is saying. Jesus, look at my son. Don't pass by and fail to notice him in his pain and in his misery. He's asking Jesus to look at his son, not with the look of judgment or of scorn, but with the gaze of mercy and of healing. Please look on my son.

He's my only child. And then he goes on to describe his condition. He said a spirit seizes him and he cries out. It convulses him.

He foams at the mouth. This sounds like a definition or description of epilepsy, but remember that Luke was a physician and he knew the difference between normal epilepsy and a demonically induced epileptic convulsion. And Jesus understood this was no mere disease, but this was an invasion from hell into this little boy's life. And he said, I beg your disciples to cast it out, but they could not. They failed. They had the authority. They had the power.

At this time, it didn't work. And if we ever find a time in sacred Scripture where our Lord displays annoyance and frustration, here it is, where he answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? You know, there's a dispute among scholars as to whom Jesus was addressing. Was he addressing the crowd, the scribes who were there, the unconverted mobs, and also the disciples?

Or was he particularly speaking and addressing the disciples? I think the latter more than the former. I think his annoyances with his own men whom he had commissioned and to whom he gave power and authority, but when push came to shove, they acted without faith. And they participated in the perversity of that generation. You know, we have a word that's an ugly word in our vocabulary. In our culture, it's the word pervert. And we usually associate a pervert with some kind of sexual deviation. But when the Bible speaks of perversion, it speaks of something that goes far beyond the arena of sexual behavior. Jesus linked together faithlessness and perversion. And what perversion means here in the text is that which is twisted, that which is crooked, that which is distorted. And Jesus is addressing not only his disciples, again, I think that's the primary people in view, but they belong to that generation. That whole culture into which Jesus came was twisted.

It was distorted. The values that they held dear were things that were noxious to the Lord God. And what was precious in the sight of God was despised in their own culture.

Theirs was a twisted culture because it was a faithless culture. And whenever human beings fail to trust God, they twist their lives into all kinds of crazy shapes. Consider the age in which you live, in which the sanctity of life has been twisted, where the sanctity of marriage has been distorted. And I don't know everybody in this room, but in all probability, there are people in this room right now living together without being married and thinking nothing of it, not realizing that they're acting in abject defiance of the holiness of God. And you just can't do that and get away with it because we are twisted.

We're distorted and therefore faithless. And after Jesus expressed his annoyance and exasperation with that generation, saying, how long do I have to abide with you? How long do I have to put up with you? Then he stopped his own complaint and addressed the father of the boy, bring your son here.

I didn't come down from this mountain just to complain about the perversity of this generation. Let me see your son. Of course, I'll look at him, and I won't just look at him. I'll heal him. And while he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. This was this boy's last convulsion. This was this demon's last victory over this young boy because Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit. He healed the child, and he gave him back to his father. There's a lot in those words because that demonic spirit had snatched that boy from his father so that when Jesus healed him, rebuking the enemy, once he healed the boy that wasn't enough, he gave him back to his father.

That's what Jesus does. And they were all amazed. That Greek word thaumatsai, astonished, to astonish or to amaze, is one we hear again and again and again in the New Testament in response to the miraculous works of Jesus regularly and characteristically when people would behold his works, they would be utterly amazed.

But notice the locus of their amazement here. We read, and they were all amazed at the majesty of God. Isn't that interesting that 24 hours earlier Peter, James, and John had been terrified at the majesty of God as it exploded among them on the Mount of Transfiguration? And now at the bottom of the mountain, the rest of the crowd don't see a transformed Christ. They don't see the radiance of his face as bright as the noonday sun, but at his power over hell, they caught a glimpse of the majesty of God.

Isn't that interesting? They realized at least for the moment that they weren't simply in the presence of an extraordinary man. But they realized that what they had just witnessed was the work of God, and it displayed his majesty, his glory, his splendor, his grandeur in the healing of this boy. And all the while everyone was standing around and being marveled at what Jesus did, he spoke aside to his disciples, then telling them what was at hand. Let these words sink down into your ears.

Will you guys listen? For the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. This isn't the first time he told them that, but their response this time isn't any different than it was in the other times. They don't get it. They didn't understand this saying.

Why? Because they were stupid? No, because the one thing, the Jews and their expectation of the Messiah only looked at the royal pomp of the coming Son of David, and they didn't tie it together with the suffering servant of God as was found in the prophet Isaiah. That combination of the understanding of the messianic office did not become clear until after the cross, and we're told it was hidden from them. Well, who hid it from them? The devil?

I don't think so. I think God hid it from them for his own purposes, and they did not perceive it. And then they were afraid to ask him about this saying. Now, in the same context, we're told by Luke, after all these things, now comes an argument, a debate, a dispute among the disciples, where we're told they're having a theological debate about infra-lapsarianism and super-lapsarianism. Now, it wasn't anything so grand as that.

It was much more practical. The dispute was of which one of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. And we don't know who was saying what, but maybe Andrew was saying, well, I think that I'm the one who will be the greatest.

Look at the church they built in my honor in Sanford, Florida. Thaddeus said, you're out of your mind. I'm going to be the greatest. And so they're arguing among themselves as to who is to be the greatest.

Now, again, let me pause. What's wrong with wanting to be great? Nothing and everything. You know, it's been said by one theologian that most sins really are nothing more and nothing less than a distortion, a twisting of some virtue. When God creates human beings, makes them in His own image, He gives to them as part of their humanity an aspiration for significance. Is there anybody in this room who wants their life to be insignificant, to be meaningless, to be useless, to be a waste, to be an exercise in vanity?

I hope no one wants that for themselves. As creatures of the living God made in His image, we're given aspirations for significance. I know I want my life to count, but I want it to count for the right things.

And I don't always want it to count for the right reasons. We become competitive. We become vicious towards rivals who would find a higher station than we achieve, who would receive the promotion that we want or win the championship that we covet.

And we begin secretly to despise them, to be envious and jealous. How many of the Ten Commandments address our twisted desires for greatness? Well, to want to be great in faith, to be great in service is a noble thing.

But to want to be the greatest in the kingdom of God at the expense of other people is perversity. And so Jesus perceiving the thoughts of their hearts, took a child, a little child, Luke tells us, and set him by Him. I couldn't help but think of that when I was watching the baptisms this morning.

They were beautiful, weren't they? I thought to myself when I was watching the baptisms that I'm seeing the greatness in the kingdom of God, the little child that Jesus brings to Himself. And He said, whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me. And whoever receives Me receives him who sent Me, for he who is least among you all will be great.

I know our time is short, but let me just say this in closing. Christ tells us to become as little children. And sometimes we use that as an excuse for infantile Christianity.

He calls us to be childlike but never childish. We're called to be babes in evil, but in our understanding we are called to be adults and mature, knowledgeable of the things that God reveals to us in sacred Scripture. But in what sense are we to be like children in the sense of trusting our heavenly Father?

You've heard me say it a thousand times, anybody can believe in God, but to believe God is what is involved in the Christian life, to trust Him. When He says, do this and live, we know that that's how we are to behave. When He tells us the things that He loves, we trust that they're good. And when He tells us the things that He abhors, we trust that they are abhorrent. Like children, don't get into deep theological disputes with their parents yet, at least while they're still little. There is that fides implicitum, that implicit trust or faith that they give to their parents. That's what Jesus is saying, trust Me. You can't believe in Me and then not trust Me, because that's what faith is. It's trust. And so He says, He who is least among them, which is really the most trusting, will be great.

Have you ever put those concepts together, that the least in the kingdom is actually the most trusting one in the kingdom? Such helpful insight today from Dr. R.C. Sproul, and we're glad you've joined us today for Renewing Your Mind as we continue Dr. Sproul's First Bible Sermon series from the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a gifted historian and physician who traveled with the Apostle Paul on some of his missionary journeys. And Luke's account of the life of Jesus is stirring. I hope you'll request our resource offer today.

It's Dr. Sproul's commentary on Luke. With nearly 600 pages, you'll be able to deepen your own Bible study. So request the digital download today with your donation of any amount. Our offices are closed on Sunday, but you can give your gift and make your request online at If you're on Facebook or Twitter, we hope you'll follow us on both of those platforms. Every day you'll find links to articles, videos, and audio posts. On Facebook, search for Ligonier Ministries, and on Twitter you'll find us by typing at Ligonier. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Thank you for joining us today, and we hope to see you right back here next Lord's Day.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-07 19:11:15 / 2023-03-07 19:18:56 / 8

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